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Matthew 5:1-10; 13-16 1
1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.  He said: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Background

Merriam Webster defines a beatitude as a state of utmost bliss. In the Christian Church, the Beatitudes are defined as the eight blessings recounted by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Each is a proverb-like proclamation, without narrative. Four of the blessings also appear in the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke, followed by four woes which mirror the blessings.

Matthew places the Sermon at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, emphasizing that Jesus is the authoritative teacher of God’s people. Jesus breaks into the public arena by proclaiming, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17). He calls His first disciples from the task of fishing for fish to the task of fishing for people (verses 18-22). Then, Jesus shows the disciples just what this new kind of fishing looks like by preaching the good news of the kingdom of heaven to people and bringing forth a new power by healing every kind of disease and affliction (verses 23-25).

A key principle of Jesus’s ministry is embracing this life as “blessed.” This is a theme that runs throughout verses 5-10: those are blessed who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who are meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who are persecuted. The word “blessed” does not mean “holy,” and neither does it mean “happy” in the sense of being in a good mood. Rather, the word, “blessed” refers to a fortunate state of life. Jesus is saying that those who are poor in spirit are fortunate! It may surprise us that He speaks these words about those whose present circumstances seem so unfortunate.

Jesus can speak this way because He is revealing a new perspective on an old kingdom . The first and the last of the nine beatitudes extend His proclamation of the good news by applying the presence of the kingdom (of heaven) to the poor and persecuted (verses 3, 10). These beatitudes are like bookends for the rest of them, fully defining God’s kingdom. Jesus does this to tell us that who possess the “kingdom” are “blessed.” The present conditions of the world are unfortunately variations on the same Old Testament theme.

Those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who are meek, and who hunger and thirst for righteousness suffer because of their faithfulness to God, and they trust in God to vindicate them (Isaiah 61:1-2; Psalm 24:3-4; Psalm 37, especially verse 11; 42:1-2).

While those who oppress God’s people may be fortunate for a moment, those who trust the Lord will be fortunate forever. Jesus calls those who would be His followers to the same radical commitment and hope for the future.

The promise of a better future  does not mean, however, that the focus is entirely future. Jesus insists that God has the final word, bringing assurance into the present. This is why He can say, “Blessed are those who mourn…blessed are the meek…blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…blessed are the merciful…blessed are the pure in heart…blessed are the peacemakers.” Jesus gives His followers eyes to see that the future is certain and this transforms their present.

Jesus is calling us to join a radical new kingdom. He gives us a vision to match, that the kingdom of heaven infiltrates our present. We can continue fishing for people, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom at great cost to ourselves, fighting oppressive powers in Jesus’ name. We can suffer for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel, with the assurance that God has the last word.

We end our study as Jesus ended his sermon on the mount, with new definitions for sharing the “Good News” of the Gospel.  First, Jesus compares us to salt. So what is salt? Sodium, one of the ingredients in table salt, helps control the balance between fluid in the cells and fluid outside the cells in your body. It also controls blood pressure. Sodium influences the body’s function to either hold onto extra fluid when you need it or excrete fluid when you don’t. Sodium also plays an essential role in nerve and muscle functioning. So life itself needs salt. Life itself needs Jesus!

Like many life sustaining substances, too much is not a good thing. Salt is also a flavoring. In the right proportions, salt enhances the foods we eat. Finally, salt is a preservative. It inhibits the growth of bacteria and protects our food from decay.  When we are called to share the Gospel, we are called to think “Salt.”  We are to keep in mind that without the Gospel’s message of hope, we have no life. When sharing our message of Jesus, we are to do so as a “flavoring,” a sprinkling onto and into our words and deeds.  The next generations are dependent upon our sprinkling, because without the Gospel, their very faith cannot be preserved for further generations.

Jesus ends with light, light placed on a stand, not under a bowl.  It is with light that others can see our lives, living the very Gospel we use as a flavoring.  Light shows others who we are, and who we place our faith in. On a stand, our light is seen by all.  However, the most important attribute of light is that light can be passed on without diminishing its flame/light.  During the times of Jesus, light was seen as a simple oil lamp or candle.  Once lit, the flame could be shared so others could light their own lamps, thus magnifying the light for all to see and share.

Items for Discussions

  • Where do you see the Kingdom of God in the world today?
  • Why does God’s Kingdom exist some places and in others, seems to be non-existent?
  • Can you explain some of the reluctance that people have for proclaiming the Good News?
  • What makes Jesus’s message so hard to sell to others? 
  • What happens if we fail to convince others to accept Jesus’s new kingdom?

Discussion Challenge

  • Think about this analogy : God is not asking us to have a mountain top experience but pop our heads out of a mole hill once in a while. How would a better understanding of this analogy help us in today’s times?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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